Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Do you take a Bath or Shower? History, plumbing, and splashing around in the tub

To many people the question of "bath or shower?" is as intimate and particular as preference on underwear. Perhaps it does say something about personality, perhaps it just tells about practicality and your physical environment. Which are you?

Currently I'm a tub gal, as the title of my blog would suggest, but it wasn't always that way.

I had been taking showers since my teen years by choice since showering seemed to be the "adult" thing to do. Through living at the college dorms, and even through having my own apartment for years later I stuck to the shower. Even the occasional romantic interlude with my husband Robert wasn't satisfying, since our tubs were definitely not sized for more than 1 body. The tub just didn't seem to hold much appeal.

That changed a lot several years ago. What happened? I got pregnant, and along with the pregnancy came bouts of insomnia, restless leg syndrome, itchy skin, weight gain, aches and pains, and other general discomfort. At approximately the 5 month mark I just couldn't get to sleep due to all of the above complaints. I was totally miserable. Since medications of any sort were not an option I had to resort to totally holistic methods of soothing my body. Baths were tops on that list.

A 20 minute soak in a tub liberally doused with Dead Sea Salts and essential oils solved nearly all of my problems - at least for long enough that I could head straight to bed and have a reasonable chance of sleeping for a while. It alleviated pressure, eliminated the terrible aches I was experiencing in muscles and bones, and left my stressed-out-skin moisturized and soothed. So my enthusiasm for the bath was "reborn", so to speak.

Even post-baby I continued to use the tub on a regular basis. The winter is when I especially choose a bath over a shower. As the chill hits and the furnace fires up I get terribly itchy. I have a terrible urge to turn the shower up to scorching hot, which not only strips all the oils from my skin but leaves it sensitive and aggravated. I have even woken up scratching in my sleep! Bathing allows me to add salts, herbs, or oils to nourish my skin, and I can usually manage to force myself to stick to lukewarm water. These practices have eliminated most of my winter itch condition without the use of any topical medications.

I also appreciate the quiet of the tub. At our new house (over 100 years old, with similarly ancient plumbing) it takes the tub a while to fill. So I bustle my daughter out the door to school, return home and eat breakfast while the tub fills. Then when I do get to immerse myself the house is totally still... Ah, how I love those moments. If I don't get my bath in the morning I really just don't even feel awake. It is as much a part of starting my day as my cup of coffee (fair trade, by the way). Just the sensation of the suspension in the water, the contrasting warmth of it next to the chill of the air, and the snug, cozy towel afterward create a suite of sensations that gently stimulate my body into functionality.

Clearly I am not alone in my love of my daily ritual. The ancients in Greece and Rome valued their time in the bath, as have many other cultures. I just simply can't even imagine living in an age without access to a daily cleansing. Spoiled? Maybe, but I think this is a pretty basic request, and a "luxury" that even the common man can enjoy. I'm thankful I wasn't born to 18th century Paris...can you say filth? Indoor plumbing didn't even make it to St. Louis until just before the World's Fair in 1904. Evidently our great city decided that we had to upgrade in order to impress the attending masses. Water towers and flush toilets were promptly installed. Two of those water towers, some of only a few left from that age, remain standing in my new neighborhood. Check out some photos here if you want to see them.

So, with that in mind I'd like to say hoorah for the bath! I'm grateful I get to have one every day, and so conveniently.  Now if you'll excuse me I'll get back to my bath...